When the Abnormal is Actually Normal…

We’ve had our shop for a long time, write SJ and Stirling Senior, and have noticed a few strange patterns and recurring problems with modern bicycles that seem to be more normal than abnormal, so these are the 15 weird realities to look out for on your bicycle.

  1. Some things on bikes still have to be made out of steel and so a little bit of rust is normal. This is exaggerated if you live near the ocean, or fell off the last bridge crossing the river mouth at the sani2c. So when your discs, stem bolts, chain and even spokes eventually develop a bit of corrosion, it is normal and unavoidable. Keeping your bike clean, and riding regularly are your best bets at keeping the rust away as long as possible.
  2. Not all “tubeless ready” labelled tyres can actually be made tubeless successfully. Unfortunately some manufacturers are a little optimistic on their promises. Added to this, almost all wire-bead tyres cannot be made tubeless successfully, though some of the stronger, thicker DH wire-bead tyres can go tubeless on the right rims.

  3. It’s completely normal for tubeless and tubeless ready tyres to seep a bit of sealant out of their sidewalls especially as they age and the sidewalls soften. It is normal for the tyre sidewall to be a bit porous, so even though these wet patches can be alarming to look at, it actually poses no problem at all. However, if you run your pressures a bit too low, you will wear out your sidewalls before you wear out the tread. The extra grip may be worth it so don’t blame the tyre manufacturer when the tyre eventually dies because you like to run low pressures.
  4. SRAM 11 speed rear derailleurs tend to loosen themselves from the drop-out over time, so use your Torx25 key to tighten it every now and then, especially if you notice your gears starting to become erratic with no good explanation (skipping down off the granny gear). Though this is not ideal, it is normal, and a little Loctite on the thread can help.

  5. Here’s a big one… using the lockout function on your fork does lead to excessive wear on the stanchions. The limited amount of movement that the lockout on your fork allows, results in concentrating the wear between the stanchions of the fork upper with the bushings of the fork lowers to a nice small area under the seals. To avoid this, try not use your fork lockout unnecessarily, and remember to get that fork serviced every 150 to 200 hours of riding.

  6. Most modern bicycles’ chain lines are actually off centre slightly. For example, on an 11 speed bike, you’d expect the chain to be straight between the front chain ring and the 6th (middle) rear cassette cog. But in most cases it is straight between the front chain ring and the 7th gear (from the top). There is a long winded reason for this, but suffice to say that this is normal.

  7. 1x drivetrains are very popular nowadays, and for good reason, so a large number of riders are converting their 10 speed setups to 1x using an expander cog on the rear, a clutch derailleur, and a thick-thin profile cog on the front. SRAM setups can usually handle a 42t rear expander cog upgrade, but Shimano can only handle up to a 40t upgrade. People may tell you differently and may claim that a longer B screw bolt will do the trick to get you up to a 42t at the back, but it won’t work smoothly. The only option for those with Shimano setups who want to go for 42t rear is to use the Rad cage upgrade from OneUp.

  8. Contrary to popular belief, the positioning of a rear shock in the bicycle frame being horizontal vs vertical has no bearing on the suspension characteristics of the bike. The leverage ratio, suspension design, rocker and linkage sizes, travel, pivot placement and rear shock setup are the determining factors of how a suspension performs and how efficient, plush and active it is.

  9. It is normal for disc brakes to squeal if they are damp or wet, and sometimes a bit of soap (after washing) will also result in squeaky brakes. When your brake pads are worn, it will also squeal but it is usually a much uglier noise and a very important sign that new pads are needed.

  10. Aluminium nipples will corrode. They also can’t be tightened as tight as brass nipples, limiting the tension options on a wheel. So why then do all manufacturers use them as standard on their bikes wheels? Well they are lighter and can be anodized all kinds of pretty colours including black. That said, I still wish that only brass nipples existed in this world. Aluminium nipples will corrode faster if you live near the coast and also if you use a latex-ammonia based sealant in your tubeless tyres (which we all pretty much do). In the long term, get them all replaced with brass nipples.

  11. In my opinion, there are two bike parts in the cycling world that are much more expensive than they should be. Hydraulic disc brake hose is really pricy by the meter and I can’t really tell you why. And good quality sealed bearing rear hubs are also overly expensive. They are a very important part so most people are willing to pay the premium, but after all these years, I really thought there would be better quality, reliable and convertible rear hub options out there that offered good value as well. However, the high price charged on these two parts is normal.

  12. If you are a big guy and think that carbon is a risk and are leaning towards buying an aluminium bike, it is a good time to tell you that carbon is actually much stronger than aluminium in every way other than impacts and inserts. Plus, carbon can usually be repaired when an accident does happen, whereas aluminium cannot. Unlike aluminium, carbon suffers no fatigue from repetitive forces traveling through the frame, but it can be susceptible to ovalizing where pivots or BB’s are inserted into the carbon, so make sure you service your bearing areas regularly. And don’t forget, bigger guys do wear out their bearings quicker too.

The upside-down Rockshox RS-1 may be the coolest looking fork on the market and certainly is amongst the most expensive out there, but did you know that you’ll also need a front hub specific to that fork? Added to this, we have noticed that because the hub needs to provide a lot of the overall stiffness to the fork (it doesn’t have a central brace like a conventional fork), the hub bearings wear much quicker. Finally, when you remove the front wheel, the fork lower legs turn independently, making it a bit of a struggle to get the wheel back in. All that said, the look and plush performance of the RS-1 puts it on most of our wish-lists.

Shock set up

We have seen a big shift from 3x drivetrains to 2x drivetrains and now 1x drivetrains, and so we have also had to shift the way we manage the wear on the drivetrain parts. In the old days we used to recommend 2 chains and 2 cassettes for every one set of front chain rings. Now, with 1x systems the load isn’t being spread over 2 or 3 front chainrings but only over one, so we are seeing 2 front chaingrings to every one chain and cassette. The good news is that we are seeing these expensive 11 speed cassettes lasting much longer than expected.

  1. And finally, even though having the front brake lever on the left hand side of your handlebar is normal, having your front brake lever on the right is not abnormal, especially in South Africa. A much larger percentage of South Africans have their front brake lever on the Right than our European and American counterparts. And that happens to be the case in the UK too where a good percentage favour the “moto” style over the traditional/standard setup on their brakes.

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